The first thing I then thought of was totem poles and being spiritually connected to nature. This concept is found throughout many cultures it turns out, the ones that interest me most are Native Americans, Inuiet, Sami and Polynesian cultures. Then I looked into Ancient Egypt and was reminded of the fact lots of Egyptian gods have human and animal characteristics, gods tend to have the heads of animals and one is even a mixture of different animals entirely. I wanted to look more closely at deities and found that transformation is also a common theme, taking the form of animals to guide humans, punish and even human form to trick.
The Inuit’s believe in entity called Amarok who is a wolf. Amarok was a lone wolf and known to “stalk and devour any person foolish enough to hunt alone at night” protecting the natural order of life and giving strength to those in need. Wolves are also important to Native American tribes. They are admired for their strength and powers of endurance, also their commitment to family and community within the pack. (ARJung, 2020) “Many tribes held the wolf in such high esteem, movements were patterned after them, family dynamics were adopted, respect was given with many rituals, as well as clans were named after these animals.” (Wolves in Native American Culture, 2020)
The Hawaiian believe in a guardian spirit, known as an Amakua called Kauila who can shapeshift between the form of a girl and a Honu (Sea Turtle) Kauila would do this to “play with and watch over the children she loved” (The Hawaiian Honu – Symbol of Wisdom and Good Luck, 2020). I also looked at different Polynesian patterns and designs, I found a great blog explaining how the traditional practice of tattooing is influencing the modern world (A Story of Ink: How a Polynesian Tradition Shaped the Modern Tattoo Industry, 2018). I find this blog interesting because I know that tattoos in Polynesian culture represent the story or history of an individual and is an incredibly personal and meaningful way of expressing their heritage. I learnt this from watching Diseny’s Moana with my family, in the bonus features it shows the research that went into making the film and created the Oceanic Story Trust to make sure the film was respectful and true to the Polynesian cultures (Sciretta, 2020)
I found in Asian culture there is a god called Inari who is related to white foxes and is the god of rice, it is said that these foxes are called kitsune and can protect and cause havoc for humans.
“There are two common classifications of kitsune:
• The zenko (善狐, literally ‘good foxes’) are benevolent, celestial foxes associated with Inari; they are sometimes simply called Inari foxes in English. Inari’s kitsune are white, a color of a good omen. Quotations from site They possess the power to ward off evil, and they sometimes serve as guardian spirits. In addition to protecting Inari shrines, they are petitioned to intervene on behalf of the locals and particularly to aid against troublesome nogitsune, those spirit foxes who do not serve Inari. Black foxes and nine-tailed foxes are likewise considered good omens.
• On the other hand, the yako (野狐, literally ‘field foxes’, also called nogitsune) tend to be mischievous or even malicious.” (Kitsune, 2020)
Illusion: “To a kitsune, their illusions are reality. What they make, for them, and for others, is as real as anything found or crafted in nature. Anything that a kitsune builds or transforms, becomes what the kitsune desired. A kitsune can make people, animals, and objects, which can’t be distinguished from the real thing. The more kitsune team up to make things, the more can be made. A handful of kitsune can build a city if they desired.”(Kitsune powers, 2020) To make a crossover of cultures I could make a connection with this power of illusion to dreams and the Greek god Morpheus, I read a description of Morpheus realm “Ovid (metamorposes II.592-649) envisages the Dreams living with their father in a dark and misty cavern in the land of Cimmerians. Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, flows with a gentle murmuring through the cave, inviting slumber, and at it’s entrance poppies bloom, and countless herbs, all shedding drowsiness. All around is stillness….When a dream is needed, he wakes and flies on his swift wings in seconds to anywhere on earth.” (March, 2010) so I thought I could draw some Kitsune in this setting. I have also read about mintiture kitsune called Kuda-gitsune or Kanko (Japanese Yokai: Kitsune, Pocket foxes, and more — Sarah Price, 2020), this would definitely fit into my miniature world theme however their purpose is to answer questions about the past, present and future; the impression that I get about them is that they are all knowing and I don’t really want this for my character as I am certainly far from it!
Sami folklore and beliefs show that “all significant natural objects (such as animals, plants, rocks, etc.) possess a soul, Traditional Sámi beliefs include a multitude of spirits. Sámi traditional beliefs and practices commonly emphasises veneration of the dead and of animal spirits.” (Sámi shamanism, 2020). I know that Sami people have a great connection with reindeer so I looked into why that was and I found this tale: “Some of the Sami epics trace Sami ancestry to the sun. In the mid-nineteenth century, a Sami minister, Anders Fjellner, recorded epic mythical poems in which the Daughter of the Sun favored the Sami and brought the reindeer to them. In a related myth, the Son of the Sun had three sons who became the ancestors of the Sami. At their deaths they became stars in the heavens, and can be seen today in the belt of the constellation Orion.”(Sami – Introduction, Location, Language, Folklore, Religion, Major holidays, Rites of passage, 2020). This sort of respect for spirits and nature reminded me of one of my favourite book series Chronicall’s of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver. I like this series because of the concept, includes one of my favourite animals (the wolf) as a main character and is written beautifully. Michelle has a video on YouTube about how she made the world for her characters, so I watched that for inspiration. (Click on this link to watch Michelle’ video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9S9EhFeOIo) I had lots of great ideas for world building but it was distracting me from creating my character so I went to basics and went over what I found so far.
Revisiting Anceint Greece with the thought of transformation in mind, it seems I have missed looking at the Phoenix which is of course a classic symbol of transformation and rebirth. Whilst I do love this idea I don’t want to overcomplicate my character why would over complicate so I have put I to side for now. I might look into the concept of an angle/Phoenix hybrid. Reference from mindmap
I was thinking about the Sami and their connection to reindeer (Sami, 2020) and also about the greek god Pan and Centaurs; who all have in common half human and half hoofed beings. Which brought me to the conclusion of a Deer type Centaur, luckily others have thought of this idea as well and there are lots of drawing references and anatomy diagrams of Centaurs available online reference so I have chosen a few to practice sketching so can have a better understanding of how my character would move. I would also like to incorporate some of the other wonderful beliefs into my character so I thought I could do this by patterns and clothing instead of physical traits of my character.
So at this point in my designing process I’ve decided:
- My character will be a type of Centaur or Phoenix/human hybrid
- I will incorporate other points of interest into my character design by patterns, colours and clothing/accessories that reference the interest.